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POLLINATOR CONTAINER GARDENING: J. Muro

Updated: Jun 27

Saturday, June the 20th was the Summer Solstice, and not too late to start container gardening for pollinators with either highly recommended bee friendly native or non-native plants. 


Photo: Catherine Jellison

What is container gardening, and how does it work?  Such a gardening set-up is very practically useful to small apartments’ living with a windowsill to allow a small overhanging, bracketed planter; a balcony, a small backyard enclosure, or a deck.  There are also other places where they can be set up on—driveways and sidewalks.  


There are a few simple ingredients for success with container gardening — a little bit of room, sunlight, containers, growing media (a.k.a. “potting soil”, never called dirt!), water, and nutrients (fertilizer). The single most important ingredient for success is Tender Loving Care because your container plants have to depend entirely on YOU for all of their needs. It’s always best to start small the first year,” the University of Maryland Extension Home & Garden Center shares.  (Source: https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/container-gardening


Photo: Pollinator Paparazzi


Pollinating insects would benefit from any sized container with helpful native and non-native plants such as bee balm, lantanas, Joe Pye weed, milkweed varieties, rose mallow, marigolds, borage, big bluestem grasses, to name a few.  From the city, suburbs, and the urban areas, it is important for the plant sizes from the roots to the growing tops to match the large, medium to small sized containers with ample drainage.  Otherwise, the plants will not develop well when there is no allowable room for the growing roots.  The correct sizes of the containers are important to choose from.  Some containers are from free and recycled items such as varying sizes of tires, trash bags, halved whiskey barrels, plastic kiddie pools, animal troughs, pallets, empty milk/vinegar jugs, varying sizes of tin cans, milk crates, sturdy plastic boxes, burlap fabric, reusable handled grocery bags, etc,... There are also affordable to expensive containers that can be bought at garden shops or online, like ceramic or clay or other earthenware made vessels; recycled products such as the costly, but effective and constantly reusable long-term EarthBox, as well as varying kinds of hanging basket planters.  Some of them can be decorated upon.  They can also be either long lasting permanent containers or temporary ones to the point of recycling them.  Invest in collecting them over the years, and also add in the factors of their portability, as well as where to store them before and after the growing seasons.  Some of these containers hold growing media of varying pounds in weight, considering whether the heavier ones would need wheels for ease of transport.  

Photo: Catherine Jellison


Importantly, these vessels need water catching saucers, because if gardening above deck with neighbors below—overflowing water can stream down if no saucers were present. As well as stain the decks, driveways, and sidewalks.  Some containers come with their own additional or separate saucers. Some plants need constant moisture or watering, some need a moderate amount, and some need to dry out, or just need spare water like some succulents do and saucers can help with this management.  


Consider the small microclimate of your space, which is “the climate of a very small or restricted area, especially when this differs from the climate of the surrounding area.(Source: Definitions from Oxford Languages {online}) such as areas that are hot heat sinks, such as black asphalt, brick walk or driveways, concrete grounds, and surfaces that reflect.  Be aware of lighting times where the containers are, for some plants thrive well with a lot of sunlight, some sunlight, or shade.  Also, be considerate of plant neighbors in the container, that is being shared with one another.  This may need some research for some are compatible with another species, and some are not.; particularly some vegetable varieties.


Photo: Catherine Jellison


There is not just one growing media, there are a variety of them that come in many sizes of bags or boxes that contain either ready-mix perlite, fertilizer, coconut coir, peat moss, and more to encourage plant growth.  Some of them are organic or synthetic, some have just plain earth, where one needs to buy additional stuff such as lime, perlite, dolomite, etc,...to name a few.  Research the plant’s needs while buying the plant and the growing media together.  Plant food is very important and helps the growth of plants, and most of them come with a tag that shares how much sunlight, room it needs to grow into, watering, fertilizer, and more finer details—keep the tags for it is handy to identify what it is and what it needs.  Some foods for plants can be worm castings, compost mix/tea, fish emulsifier, bone meal, used coffee grounds, dried avocado peels, banana peels, crushed eggshells, and more—research these, and over time, one will get the hang of what plants need and benefits from what and when.  Some plants may either thrive robustly, do alright, or may die—it is inevitable and all are learning lessons as we garden each year, gaining more wisdom as to what works and what is ok and what doesn’t work. 


Photo: https://thebeakerlife.com/a-second-life-for-scraps-compost-basics-8659947f961)

Gardening in one or many more containers of varying sizes and shapes can be fun, but it is a commitment and very therapeutic as well as educational.  It is best to start small and work one’s way up each spring, summer as one goes by.  It is a lot of hard work when one has more containers to pay attention to, and yet, the rewards are great, one learns about botany in a big hands-on way, as well as entomology (insect studies), meteorology (the study of weather), for plants need their caretakers to be attentive to weather details every day and before bed.  If the timing to water, feed, or care for the plants is too much, consider those that need little to no watering such as succulents (cacti), it can still be fun and teach one a lot about botany of the plant world.  

Whether it be one small rectangular sized overhanging planter box over the apartment windowsill to the large garden filled with many varying sizes of containers, it would sure be a great benefit for any pollinators and gardeners, as a team.  Gardening in any small or big way can be a tempting and friendly contagious behavior act all around us.  

Sources: 

https://www.thespruce.com/ten-container-garden-tips-for-beginners-847854

https://blog.homesteadgardens.com/bay-wise

https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/container-gardening


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